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From The Asian Reporter, V22, #02 (January 16, 2012), page 14.

Why should we celebrate the New Year?

Celebrating the Chinese New Year

By Sanmu Tang

Better Link Press, 2007

Paperback, 32 pages, $4.95

By Josephine Bridges

The Asian Reporter

Little Mei is happy the New Year is approaching, but she is not content to celebrate a holiday she doesnít know the reason for, so she asks. And asks. And asks. Celebrating the Chinese New Year is the story of a little girlís inquisitiveness and persistence, and those of us who are acquainted with little people unaccustomed to settling for the first answer they get to an important question will see our young loved ones in wonderful Little Mei.

Red packets filled with money, new clothes, jaiozi (dumplings), and firecrackers are all reasons Little Meiís brother, sister, mother, and father give for the celebration, but the girl remains unconvinced. Finally, Little Meiís grandmother encourages her to ask her grandpa, who tells her a story that begins like this: "Long, long ago, there lived a monster called Xi, who would come to the human world to cause havoc every 365 days."

As she sits on her grandpaís lap and listens to the heroic feats of Nian, who made the monster so uncomfortable that he ran away and was never seen again, Little Mei acts the role of hero, and in the process discovers an answer to her question about why they celebrate the New Year that satisfies her curiosity, and may well satisfy yours. The color red and firecrackers both play important roles in the banishing of the monster, as does a sticky cake that today bears Nianís name.

The tale of a simple question with a complex answer, young Meiís story would make a perfect gift for the little person in your life who never stops asking, "Why?" Illustrations rich in detail accompany the text, which is comfortingly repetitive for the beginning reader. Look for masks, musical instruments, decorations, food, and fireworks, as well as a monster who starts out a little scary, but ends up seriously scared.

As Celebrating the Chinese New Year draws to a close, Little Mei is shown running with her arms spread wide to her grandpa, who leans down to embrace his grandchild as he tells her why the first and last days of the year have the names they do. Little Mei now knows why we celebrate the New Year. You can, too.

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